Directed by Justin Kurzel
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cottilard, Jeremy Irons
Despite being a prodigious form of entertainment, video-game adaptations have always sat uneasily on the silver screen. From the woeful Super Mario Bros (1993) to the tepid Angry Birds (2016), computer game films have critically and often financially under-performed. Yet with a possible multi-million dollar revenue stream, already available recognition, and a guaranteed fan-base, the temptation is always there. Assassin’s Creed marks another attempt to port a well known franchise to this medium. With numerous games behind it, and a rich established mythos, could this be the one to finally hit its mark?
The basic story is as convoluted as you would expect from the series. After being executed Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is surprised to find himself being given a second chance of life as a subject in a secret research facility. Strapped to a device referred to as the Animus, he is able to access the genetic memories of his ancestors and to relieve past events. There he finds himself as the Assassin Aguilar fighting a guerrilla war against the controlling religious forces of the Templars in 15th century Spain. In both time-lines the artifact known as the Apple Of Eden may be the key, but in the present day, the war might not be as dead as Lynch thinks it is.
It’s my fervent belief that director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) has a great movie in him. His directorial voice is certainly strong, giving his films a unique look and sense of style. He also has a strong affinity for directing action, making such sequences come alive with motion and excitement. Unfortunately Assassin’s Creed is not that film. It is weighed down with flat performances, pretentious plot points, dire scripting, and an overwhelming sense of its own self importance.
A common belief among the fan-base for the game, is that the best elements are the exploration of the past. It’s a conceit that game developer Ubisoft has paid attention to, gradually lessening the interaction in the modern setting, and concentrating on the past. Hence it is somewhat confusing that the film reverses this trend, concentrating on the action in the machinations and scheming of the present, only visiting the past in a couple of wondrous set pieces. These past sequences are bursts of colour and exotic spice, allowing for massive action sequences. Here Kurzel’s style really shines, lending an earthy reality to the setting, and dazzling audiences with a whirling dervish of excitement.
Yet these moments are too few and far between. Instead we are dragged into the “real” world (in so far as that term can be used to describe a bleeding edge laboratory funded by a millennia old religious cult) and the film grinds to a halt. Concentrating on the conspiratorial elements of Creed’s mythos, everything becomes ponderously dour, caught up in pretentious messianic overtones and convoluted pulp villainy.
Here great actors somehow produce woeful performances. There is no light and shade here. Everything is pitched at the same flat monotone, meant to emphasis it’s importance, yet failing utterly. So despite such fine actors as Fassbender, Cotillard, and Irons, the result is bland.
Although it provides brief moments of excitement, and some great Easter Eggs for fans of the game, Assassin’s Creed is on the whole yet another uninspiring adaptation.